Do you know how to breathe consciously? Most of us understand breathing to be an automatic reflex which it is, but what happens to your body when you intentionally breathe for even three minutes? I’ll give you a hint. You improve your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Now imagine improving all that while riding your horse.
Did you know that when you are excited, nervous, or in contemplation most tend to hold their breath? This isn’t normally done intentionally. Most of us don’t even know we’re doing it until we realize we need the air. Personally, I catch myself holding my breath far too often either when I’m driving, daydreaming, or riding my horse. But by consciously choosing to breathe we can improve not only our well-being but also our riding capabilities. You may even think that only nervous riders need to practice breathwork techniques but that’s not the case. Nervous or not, breathwork can improve even the professionals. It helps to bring us back into our bodies and the moment alongside improving our core strength and creating that connection with our horse.
Something that I like to do before I even tack up my horse is to stand next to her, lay my hand either right under her nose or rest it on her side, and then begin to match her breath. This simple exercise helps to bring me into my own body and align myself with her. In these moments we are working as one. We are members of the same team. This isn’t an exercise I’ve learned anywhere but has come to me intuitively to me after years of starting young horses. It’s so important to align yourself with your horse before jumping on. They can sense everything you’re feeling and why would you want to bring that into your riding? I encourage you to take a few minutes before taking up and match your horse’s breath. See how this changes your mindset and your guy’s time together.
If that is the only exercise you do then that’s a great start!
But if you want to take it a step further, after you’ve saddled up, sit in your saddle and take some long, deep, satisfying inhales through the nose and long sighs as you exhale through the mouth. You will immediately feel your horse relax and maybe even bend one hind knee as they stand in a relaxed state. Once you do this a few times, feel free to begin your riding and you will notice a difference both within yourself and your horse.
Once you’re riding and you’re feeling comfy you can even do some more breathing techniques if you feel called to. An easy one to do while actively riding is to count back from 30 and alternate your inhale and exhale. It goes a little something like this: inhale and say “30” in your mind, then exhale and say “29” in your mind, then inhale and say “28” in your mind, and exhale and say “27” in your mind. You get the idea. These are just a few simple techniques to get you started and you can build a really good practice from here by either just choosing these ones or adding some different ones to your collection. Take what resonates with you and leave the rest, my friend.
If you have tried any of these out and noticed a difference I’d love to hear from you. Either drop a comment below or reach out to me on my personal Instagram at @unbridledmama.
Love this blog post? We think you will enjoy Breathe Easy: Supporting Your Horse’s Lung Health by Casie Bazay.